NFL News & Analysis

NFL Week 4 PFF ReFocused: New Orleans Saints 35, Detroit Lions 29

It was a game of runs, but the New Orleans Saints were able to hang on for a 35-29 win over the Detroit Lions to put their season back on track.

Editor's note: All of PFF's grades and advanced stats from this game will be finalized and made available to ELITE subscribers within 24 hours of the final whistle.

Story of the Game

The Lions jumped out to a 14-point lead after easily scoring on their first possession and starting with a short field after a Drew Brees slant route was tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by Darryl Roberts on the Saints' first possession. The game turned right back around with the Saints scoring 35 straight points before the Lions put up the last 15 points of the ballgame. 

Brees looked like the quarterback he was expected to be coming into the season. There were no deep passes, but every intermediate throw was on the money. On throws between 10 and 25 yards down the field, Brees went eight of 12 for 155 yards and a touchdown.

Oct 4, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) drops back to pass against the Detroit Lions during the third quarter at Ford Field. Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Emmanuel Sanders stepped up in the absence of Michael Thomas and Jared Cook, catching six of his team-leading nine targets. Tre’Quan Smith caught all three of his targets with two going for touchdowns and one good for a first down on an important third-down conversion late in the game. The real MVP of this game was the Saints' offensive line, which played part of the game without Ryan Ramczyk. Brees was only pressured five times on 27 dropbacks. Saints running backs Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray combined for for 149 rushing yards in the first three quarters with 96 coming after contact.

After a fantastic first drive that saw Matthew Stafford complete a couple third downs and a touchdown, the Lions' offense shriveled up and was nowhere to be seen in the second and third quarters. During that time, Stafford only completed seven of 14 pass attempts with an interception and a sack.

The running game was not able to get anything going during this period, either, with 36 yards on 10 carries. The heavy man-to-man coverage unit the Lions employ could not stay with the Saints' receivers. Desmond Trufant allowed all five targets in his direction to be caught for 59 yards, four first downs and a touchdown.

Rookie Watch

Lions first round pick Jeffrey Okudah played 32 snaps with 15 of them in coverage. He was targeted twice and allowed one catch for 19 yards — the aforementioned Tre’Quan Smith catch that all but sealed the game. John Penisini and Julian Okwara saw time on the defensive line, playing 21 and 10 snaps, respectively. Neither could get anything going in the pass rush, but Penisini had two tackles overall. Jonah Jackson played 61 snaps at guard. D’Andre Swift caught a touchdown pass on four targets and rushed for 22 yards on four attempts. Receiver Quintez Cephus saw three receiving snaps but did not record a stat.

Saints rookie guard Ceser Ruiz played every snap at guard, while tight end Adam Trautman played 20 snaps but didn’t record a stat. Marquez Callaway played 15 snaps and was targeted once, coming up with a catch for 16 yards. Malcolm Roach created one pressure on his nine pass rushing snaps. 

ELITE subscribers can view player grades, advanced statistics, positional snap counts and more in Premium Stats 2.0.

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